She was so cold. And alone.
Try as she might she found no energy to adjust her broken leg's position as she rested against the shattered hull of her X-wing. It had been a day since she had sipped her last reserve of water, and days before that since she had eaten her last ration bar. Even with Jedi healing techniques, her body could not last much longer. The crash on this moon, then the elements, had sealed her fate.
She was dying.
Somehow, she managed to roll her head and gaze up into the last golden beams of the system's glowing sun as her moon passed into the nightside of its planet. Darkness was descending and with it came freezing winds and chilling temperatures her body was now too weary to fight.
The distinct lines of the sun's rays were merging as her vision began to blur, the first sign of her soul's exit. She shut her eyes, refusing to witness her fate. Instead she recalled the last words she would ever know from the love of her life, reliving them with the exacting detail which she had committed them to memory as the datapad's battery had failed.
She would remember and grieve before she died. And he would never know.
My Dearest Jaina,
I waited for you on Mon Calamari for as long as I dared before I had to return to Csilla. I hope this letter finds you well, and that your delay was just an unfortunate turn of circumstances - and nothing more. I had dreamt of holding you in my arms while overlooking the Turni Reef just like we have many times before, to kiss your tender lips, to make love to you with the ocean and moon and stars as our witness.
With what little life was still left in her, she longed for that kiss, to be lost in her lover's arms.
She had never intended to miss him. The mission had been demanding and tiresome from the start. When one fire had been snuffed out, another always had flared elsewhere. Even her Jedi patience barely could handle the strain. She had endured, squeezing every ounce of diplomacy from her Skywalker blood. She was truly her father's daughter, but for once, the princess and senator who had been her mother had prevailed. She had returned to the Jedi Council to report that the Junta-Kin standoff had been resolved - successfully.
She had dreamt the entire way back to Mon Calamari of falling into his arms and losing herself there - a fitting reward for her trials.
Alas some things must remain simply that - dreams.
Her pride had been tempered with disappointment when she had returned home and had found only a letter left in her quarters to signify his departure.
There are things I had hoped to tell you before I returned home. I am not sure where to begin, so I will start with my news. The CEDF has been most pleased with my work as an ambassador to the Galactic Alliance, and I have been offered a promotion - General no less. Of course, I hesitated to accept without talking to you first. The time for discussion and inclusion of your thoughts is drawing to a close. So I hold onto this one hope.
General! She was so proud. He would never know.
She had read those words during the middle of a long-winded discourse among the Jedi Council. The letter had been left unread at first. Disappointment over his departure had prevented her from enjoying his words, so she had saved them for later. As others had argued the merits of sending more Jedi to Zonama Sekot for further study, Jaina had surrendered to the overpowering urge to touch her lover on some level, even if it were just his thoughts committed to a datacard.
Come to me, Jaina.
Those words had scared her to the core. She had gasped audibly at the thought. Eleven solemn pairs of eyes had sought her out. She had mumbled an apology and the debate had droned on.
Come to me on Csilla and meet my family.
She had never been ready. The time had never been right. There always had been so much more needing to be accomplished before she could commit to another, to share her life.
Let me show you the dreams I hold for us in my heart. The hope for a home. The wish of a union for a lifetime. The vision of children and family with enough love to last for eternity.
Children. Their children.
A moan of despair formed in her chest and managed to leave only as a whimper. It was getting colder, yet she had no energy to shiver. Instead her body slumped to the ground, no longer strong enough to sit upright. The moon's rocky surface offered shielding from the wind but little else.
She considered opening her eyes one last time to gaze upon the glistening white of his homeworld below and found the energy was better spent on simply remembering the words, the essence of the man.
I love you, Jaina Solo. More than I think you can ever know. More than I could ever voice in words or actions. More than life itself.
She had read those words and had known the truth in them. Her heart had burst with the knowledge and the desire to tell him the same thing. She had risen then from her seat within the room of twelve Jedi and walked out. They must have watched her departure with curiosity she thought, but by then she had been blind except to one purpose.
And I have been more than patient in the four years since the war ended while you chased your dreams and achieved your goals - Jedi Master and a seat on the Council. I could not have been prouder than if you were truly mine. The truth, however, is that you have held me at bay, denied me the completeness of your love, for reasons I fail to understand.
She had chosen to come with only that much. She had not read further until seated in her cockpit with nowhere to go.
Only now did she fully understand why she had denied them both what they each had desired. Ever since the start of the war, she had struggled with the guilt of leaving her loved ones behind. Chewie. Anni. Anakin. And so many others. All were heroes in their own right. They had deserved so much more, yet here she was flawed and alive. Who was she to deserve so much love and devotion? Would she ever be worthy of their deaths?
As she lay dying, she realized the travesty of that fear. She had owed it to them to survive and carry on. She had owed it to them to mold the next generation to be worthy of the legacy left behind, of the sacrifices made to ensure their survival.
Still, there comes a time when we must all choose.
She had chosen too late, it seemed.
Do you love me enough to finally choose us?
Yes. Yes, she did. She had made haste as he had requested. She had not told a soul where she was headed. She had followed his directions to the letter, arriving and transmitting the codes he had provided, only to be pursued by a complete squadron of clawcraft.
She was a good pilot. She was not that good. Eventually they had dogged her to one of the nearby moons, and she had fought valiantly until one too many critical systems had succumbed.
Then she had fallen from the sky.
They must have believed her crash not survivable. No one came. But she had survived and held onto the slim hope this was a big mistake and that he would rescue her.
Oh Jaina. I wanted so much to say these words to you in person. To look into your eyes so I could see for myself the answers written across your face.
Oh, how much she wanted the same thing. Now those answers were lost forever. She would have cried over the loss, but her body had no tears left either.
I do not harbor fantasies that we will stay on Csilla, and that is not my ultimate goal. If you would say the word I would give it all up for you - simply walk away from this career without remorse. Yet if you cannot, I am at a crossroads.
She would have stayed. She would have been happy wherever he was. She knew that now. She could have walked away from it all - the Jedi, Starfighter Command, the Galactic Alliance. But it was too late. She was at the end of her road.
She felt it coming. She could feel the light - the light of the Force that would usher her away. She felt its warmth on her face. She heard the faint sounds of those who had passed before, calling to her from beyond this life.
I have been offered a position within the CEDF that would preclude me from leaving the Unknown Regions. Our rendezvous would have to end. The job itself is not important, but to turn it down simply for the hope that one day you will join with me in a sacred union is beyond the limits of reason. It would dishonor my Chiss upbringing and the man I have strived to become.
He would make a fine general. She would have been so proud on that day. Now she would have to be happy simply in the knowledge.
She could see him in her mind's eye, coming toward her in his uniform. He always had looked so handsome in that black flightsuit with red piping. She almost managed to smile remembering. Almost.
Jaina, there will never be another woman for me. Know that. But the time has come to move on or move past.
She saw his face now. It was so sad and so concerned. His eyes only saw her.
I will accept either - one with more joy than the other.
She imagined the pain in his eyes. She saw it with such clarity. He was crying. He would miss her forever.
Included with this message are hyperspace routes and receiving codes for your arrival at Csilla. I will wait for you until ten days from now. If you do not come, I will know your decision.
He cried because he thought she had chosen a life without him. No. She did choose him. Then she knew her life was ending for she could feel her body lifting up, and there was warmth and comfort and love surrounding her.
You are my light and my life and my love.
What a wondrous gift the Force was giving her - to believe her death had come in his arms. It was a beautiful dream. She would die happy.
Jaina, come back to me. Be with me. Be mine. Forever.
And now his voice recited those closing words as the letter ended in her mind. She heard him as though he was actually there, carrying her to the light.
I will love you always.
Her mind did not want to finish the letter, to remember his name, because then her life would be over. She knew it was time and found strength in the imagined renewal of heat and warmth that touched her from all sides. And so she spoke his name with her dying breath.
"Yes. I am here, my love. You are safe. I have come to take you home."
Original cover by rhonderoo. HTML formatting copyright 2004 TheForce.Net LLC.